After finding only debris and human remains in the area where a Black Hawk helicopter crashed in Florida Tuesday night with 11 people aboard, officials at Eglin Air Force Base say the mission has transitioned from a search and rescue into a recovery effort.
“At this point, we are not hopeful for survivors,” said Col. Monte Cannon, vice-commander of the 96th Test Wing. “Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the family members and the units where our soldiers and Marines call home.”
Update at 1:30 p.m. ET: Two Soldiers Confirmed Dead
The bodies of two soldiers who died in the crash have been recovered, according to a statement from the Louisiana National Guard.
“It is with a heavy heart that we announce that two of our own have perished in this tragic accident,” said Maj. Gen. Glenn H. Curtis, the adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard. “We believe the other two remain with the aircraft.”
Curtis added, “The entire military community mourns the loss of our friends that we consider family.”
Our original post continues:
Last night, a candlelight vigil was held for the crash victims at the Navarre Pier in the Florida Panhandle, according to the Pensacola News Journal.
The helicopter had seven Marines and four members of the Louisiana National Guard on board when it crashed during a night-time training exercise. The Marines had been assigned to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, as part of the Marine Special Operations Regiment.
Names of those on the helicopter aren’t being released, as the military works on informing their next of kin. Earlier, officials said the crew of the Black Hawk had previously been deployed to Iraq and had also helped respond to large-scale disasters such as the BP oil spill and Hurricane Katrina.
As the operation moves into being a recovery effort, Eglin’s public affairs office says, investigators will also take control, seeking possible explanations for the crash. As we reported Wednesday, the incident came amid intensely foggy conditions that have persisted through the effort to find the downed helicopter’s passengers and crew.
Announcing the change in the mission Thursday, Cannon also thanked the many groups that helped in the search operation, including the Eglin Fire Department and more than 100 participants from local fire and police departments agencies, the Coast Guard, and the Red Cross.